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Crespi Dispatches Westlake in Close Encounter

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Only several months ago Jim Benkert, the newly appointed football coach at Westlake High, proclaimed that there would not be a Westlake-Crespi rivalry during his tenure.

Benkert had just been hired away from Crespi after serving as an assistant coach for four years. Tim Lins, another Crespi assistant and a friend of Benkert’s, was named the Celts’ head coach just prior to Benkert’s appointment.

And Lins concurred. There would be no football game between the schools. The ties that bind were wound too tightly.

So, as the 16-team Cal Lutheran passing tournament began Friday, which two schools met in the first round? You guessed it--Westlake and Crespi.

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“It’s tough,” Benkert said after the Celts’ 13-6 victory. “As you saw, I congratulated all of them because I know all these guys personally. I’ve watched these kids grow up.”

Crespi quarterback Bill Canalez passed for two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Christian Fauria, whose leaping catch in the end zone was nothing short of spectacular.

“I love when Fauria goes up and makes that catch,” Benkert said. “But we’ve low-keyed it to our kids. We’ve had only four days of seven-on-seven practice. We’re just not there yet.”

Westlake quarterback Todd Preston, however, was impressive, as was receiver Luke Crawford, who will be a tailback when the regular season begins.

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Doug Dagan took no time at all to settle in as Newbury Park’s defensive coordinator. Dagan, the former junior varsity head coach who joined first-year Coach George Hurley’s varsity staff this year, watched his unit allow only six points in three victories Saturday.

The Panthers defeated Notre Dame, 7-0; Moorpark, 13-6; and Oak Park, 20-0.

And Dagan, a member of Newbury Park’s last Marmonte League championship team in 1981, believes it is never too early to aim high.

“With a new head coach there are some things that are going to be different,” Dagan said. “But with the kids we have I see no reason why we can’t contend for the league title and do well in the playoffs.”

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Dagan’s defense was given a boost when Shane Gallimore and Brian Smith, two good athletes who did not play football last season, decided to join the team. Both could land starting positions in the secondary.

“We’re going to be really aggressive,” Dagan said. “We have a lot of kids that like to hit.”

Gallimore, who also plays basketball and baseball, had an interception Saturday and Pat O’Neil had two.

The talk of the tournament thus far has been the new and improved Chris Peery. Canyon’s bulldozing tailback is 26 pounds lighter than at this time last year, which makes Cowboy Coach Harry Welch very happy.

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“Chris Peery is not only physically better,” he said. “He’s mentally stronger and a good citizen. He was good as a freshman, great as a sophomore, practically an All-American as a junior. He’s much better now in all ways.

“This year, he’s a muscular 212. Last year, he was a flabby 238.”

Canyon was 1-0-2 Friday, including a 13-13 tie against Agoura. In that game’s final seconds, Agoura’s Damian Smith intercepted a pass and streaked 70 yards for a touchdown. The conversion pass was good.

“I thought we’d be a lot better,” Welch said. “I miscalculated a little. I’ve got a bunch of nice, young guys. But we’re really not playing very well.”

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Welch saved some superlatives, however, for the Thousand Oaks defense. The Lancers played Canyon to a scoreless tie.

Said Welch: “It looked a little bit like a well-coached junior college team. They were dropping our kids. Not cheap stuff. They were getting up in our kids’ faces and just dropping them.

“They have some good size in some real key positions.”

Thousand Oaks has eight returning full-time starters and another part-time starter on the defensive team, which was the best in the Marmonte League last season. Included in the group are five all-league players and three All-Ventura County selections.

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“Our defense should carry us early until our offense gets going a little bit,” Thousand Oaks assistant Larry Mohr said.

There’s just something about smash-mouth football that Agoura Coach Frank Greminger loves. Let the hosses up front do the work, he reckons.

This season, Greminger will stick to his beloved veer offense, but there’s a new twist. As much as it as it pains him, he’s going to throw the ball. Really.

“I suspect we’re going to pass as much as we run this year,” he said. “They’re going to think we’re a new football team. I think it’s going to help us a lot, but we’re going to need success early.”

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